Re: What does "free software" mean?

From: Richard Stallman <>
Date: Tue, 3 Jun 1997 03:04:53 -0400

It looks like Eric is trying to discourage people from getting
together to write a free replacement for ncurses. I sent him a
message yesterday, saying that he couldn't block an alternative curses
project by force of law, and suggesting that he make it unnecessary,
by making ncurses free.

It looks like he's trying a third alternative: a self-fulfilling
prophecy aimed at convincing people to give up.

This is a method often used in politics. Someone predicts that just
about everyone is going to join his side, so he simply has to win; and
then he kindly advises you to be on the winning side. Only an silly
idealist would reject such practical advice.

If people believe the prophecy, and accept the advice, they can make
it true. Or people can reject it and make it false.

Eric also argues that freedom to share your changes with others is not
important. As proof, he cites the many people who don't care about
this freedom. Sheesh, with that kind of reasoning you could prove all
freedom is unimportant.

I figure that some people care about the freedom to share your
changes, and some don't. You know how important this is to you.

When the GNU project started, we had a whole Unix system to replace
with free software. Ncurses is a small job by comparison. And if the
replacement is good, it can become more popular than ncurses, even
among people who don't care about freedom.

So if you'd like to help develop a free replacement for ncurses,
please send me mail. I can also post an announcement on GNU
newsgroups--but that may not even be necessary.

The precise distribution terms for this library will be decided by the
people who do most of the work on it. It does not need to be
copylefted; it just needs to be free.
Received on Tue Jun 03 1997 - 03:19:23 EDT

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